How often should a woman over 65 have a Pap smear?

Published by Medicare Made Clear®

Women over 65 may hear conflicting medical advice about getting a Pap smear – the screening test for cervical cancer. Current medical guidelines say the test is not necessary after age 65 if your results have been normal for several years. Recent research suggests otherwise.

Research shows need for Pap smears past age 65

As many as 20% of cervical cancer cases occur in women aged 65 and older, according to research out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.1 Study results also showed that the rate of cervical cancer diagnosis was higher in women age 70 – 79 than in women age 20 – 29. Prior to these findings, the view was that cervical cancer was usually only diagnosed in younger women.

The outlook for cervical cancer is favorable when the disease is caught early, and regular Pap smear tests are the key to early diagnosis.

Does Medicare cover an annual Pap smear?

Medicare Part B covers a Pap smear once every 24 months. The test may be covered once every 12 months for women at high risk. Your doctor will usually do a pelvic exam and a breast exam at the same time. These screenings are also covered by Part B on the same schedule as a Pap smear.

You pay nothing for a Pap smear, pelvic exam or breast exam as long as your doctor accepts Medicare assignment. If your doctor recommends more frequent tests or additional services, you may have copays or other out-of-pocket costs.

Medicare Advantage plans (Part C) cover Pap smears as well. Just make sure your doctor or other provider is in the plan network.

A regular Pap smear is one of several preventive services that Medicare covers. Ensuring you’re up to date on this and other important screening tests is one very good reason you should schedule an annual Medicare Wellness Visit.

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